Craven House, Paperback
5 out of 5 (1 rating)




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This book is a joy. Yes, Hangover Square and The Slaves Of Solitude are Patrick Hamilton's masterpieces however this book is every bit as enjoyable. Playful, jaunty, and very sentimental, it is interesting to read Hamilton in a more positive mood - before the cynicism and darkness really took hold. Craven House was the first major novel by Patrick Hamilton and was published in 1926, and captures that moment when, following World War 1, the certainties of the Edwardian way of life eroded until English society was changed for ever. Hamilton's own family experienced their own slow, inexorable slide down the social scale throughout Patrick Hamilton's childhood. The Craven House of the title is a boarding house in west London, similar to the one Hamilton's own family lived in at Chiswick. The setting allows Hamilton to explore the shifting, uncertain world of the English boarding house. The characters that populate this house are lovingly chronicled with horrified fascination. On the surface each is well mannered and genteel. Scratch the surface and there is much more going on. As with other books by this wonderful writer, his acute powers of observation enrich all the characters with little phrases and idiosyncrasies that are clearly drawn from real life and so authentically evoke a sense of time and place, and are all described in Hamilton's gloriously atmospheric prose.There is barely disguised tension between the occupants of Craven House, in addition to an intergenerational conflict being slowly fought between the young people and their elders. Like a slow pressure cooker, the tale slowly and inexorably builds to a memorable conclusion over the fifteen years that the story takes place (1911-1926). Patrick Hamilton was a master and this book, whilst not regarded as one of his more significant works, is funny, absurd, poignant, and downright wonderful.